Molly, our milk cow, is facing the cold weather with two growing calves to feed (Nellie, left and Jake, below) and likely a new calf on the way for summer. That's a lot to expect out of a grass-fed cow in winter. To lessen her load, I need to wean and sell one of her calves (the other will be weaned in spring). Molly would prefer to keep Nellie, her own heifer, but I don't need two milk cows around here. Jake, her foster-steer, is promised to the LEO Center food pantry in Lawrence when he's grown.
Jake, Molly's Holstein foster-steer
It's a tough decision, but I think Nellie will need to find a new home. Luckily, the life of a family milk cow is a pretty good one. Jake's only off-farm option is the feedlot. Looks like I'll keep Jake with his momma, wean him onto fresh grass in the spring, and fatten him on grass. Nellie will go on to have a family of her own, someday.
Molly and Nellie on Bluestem Farm
Nellie and Molly make a pretty pair. It's a rare thing for a dairy cow to raise her own calf. In a dairy, most calves are fed milk replacer in confinement. That would have been Jake's fate if he hadn't come here at two days old. Luckily, at the diary where he was born, he as allowed to feed off of his mother at least once. An other calf, Gary, that we owned briefly, was bonded with people and wouldn't try to nurse on Molly. He had to be sold as a bottle calf.